The United States is in the third year of a grand experiment by the Obama administration to revive the economy through enormous borrowing and spending by the government, with the Federal Reserve playing a supporting role by keeping interest rates at record lows.
How is the experiment going? By the looks of it, not well.
The economy is growing much more slowly than in a typical recovery, housing prices remain depressed and the stock market has been in a slump — all troubling indicators that another recession may be on the way. Most worrisome is the anemic state of the labor market, underscored by the zero growth in the latest jobs report.
The poor results should not surprise us given the macroeconomic policies the government has pursued. I agree that the recession warranted fiscal deficits in 2008-10, but the vast increase of public debt since 2007 and the uncertainty about the country’s long-run fiscal path mean that we no longer have the luxury of combating the weak economy with more deficits.
Today’s priority has to be austerity, not stimulus, and it will not work to announce a new $450 billion jobs plan while promising vaguely to pay for it with fiscal restraint over the next 10 years, as Mr. Obama did in his address to Congress on Thursday. Given the low level of government credibility, fiscal discipline has to start now to be taken seriously. But we have to do even more: I propose a consumption tax, an idea that offends many conservatives, and elimination of the corporate income tax, a proposal that outrages many liberals.
(photo credit: juan pablo santos rodriguez)